As trademark counsel for General Mills, the best compliment that Alex Christian has ever received may come as a bit of a surprise. “One of my clients told me that I’m a “secret marketer,” Christian recalls. “I love that, because I understand what our business is trying to do, and I know how to connect with them to make our shared interests relatable and easy to understand.”
Christian understands the General Mills business because she proudly lives it. Her dog’s name is Betty, named after Betty Crocker, and the lawyer says the home that she and her wife Laura (also an in-house IP counsel) share is filled with General Mills products.
“I’m serious about what I do, and I consider myself a huge brand supporter,” the lawyer explains. “I feel like I should moonlight in the sales department because I’m constantly telling people about our products and how great they are.”
The Confidence to Be Yourself
This is who Christian is. It’s who she’s proud to be. But it wasn’t always that easy. The lawyer says that the last five years at General Mills have been an oasis in a young legal career that previously felt devoid of mentorship and firm jobs that left her feeling like she had to downplay the fun, curious, and down-to-earth professional that she is.
“Part of it has to do with being young, and part of it has to do with being a woman, but I was really made to feel badly about who I was, and it was extremely difficult from a confidence-building standpoint,” Christian explains. “When you’re a young associate, confidence is everything, and the lack of mentorship I received is one of the reasons why I feel so strongly about mentoring younger attorneys now.”
In keeping with her commitment to mentoring, Christian leads the General Mills summer internship program. General Mills partners with the Hennepin County Bar Association and Twin Cities Diversity in Practice for the internship program.
The attorney doesn’t stay long on the bad beats she took early in her firm career; there is too much good to focus on now. The lawyer says the mentorship she herself received as soon as she came to General Mills was everything she was looking for in her career.
“I was honest and upfront with my manager when I first got here, and he’s helped give me a foundation to really build my confidence,” Christian says of William Miller, the company’s chief IP counsel. “I have to give credit to so many of my teammates on the IP team. I don’t think they recognize how much they helped me grow in areas where I struggled.”
Christian also mentions Joshua Burke, her trademark-partner and General Mills senior trademark and copyright counsel, as another impactful mentor whose time and effort has helped her grow by leaps and bounds.
A Marketer’s Eye
Just as assuredly as Christian’s dog Betty is an avid consumer of Blue Buffalo dog food, Christian is working with the same gusto to support the growth of pet brands at General Mills.
“It’s no secret that as you look at all the investor calls and see where the market is going, the pet space is the future,” the lawyer says. “It’s a high priority for our company, and in my role, I have the opportunity to look at the big picture of our brands and growth.”
Along with the expansive growth of Blue Buffalo, Christian views her role as both enabling the business to get where it needs to go and protecting brand names. She has a marketer’s eye for making sure brands always project their strengths and demonstrate their ideal value in the marketplace. The lawyer is just as likely to be helping with product packaging as she is to be clearing names for a trademark.
Although Christian is still young in her career, it’s imperative to pay attention to exactly how much mentorship can affect a lawyer’s journey. Five years ago, Christian felt stifled, as if the person she was somehow rated as less than what her field required.
Given the chance to be herself and a few helping hands, you will be hard-pressed to find a more business-focused IP attorney. Christian’s internal clients love her. The real her. All she needed was the confidence to show up as the person she is.